Free Enterprise Conferences


Are you a college student who wants to learn more about public policy and become a better advocate for free enterprise on campus?

The American Enterprise Institute Free Enterprise Boot Camps offer you a deep dive into the material and moral benefits of economic freedom and will train you to become a more effective advocate of free enterprise on your campus. Each boot camp begins on Friday evening and continues through Saturday. During this time, you will participate in six lecture and discussion sessions with AEI scholars and staff. Instructed by some of AEI’s top economic minds, these sessions will give you an opportunity few students get to enjoy: time to — in a small group setting — learn from and interact with scholars whose ideas influence the policy world.

These sessions provide the fundamental knowledge necessary to understand and defend American free enterprise. First, you will learn how only American free enterprise can provide the necessary conditions for all citizens to flourish. You will study key moments in American history in which the state’s relationship with the economy changed and examine the major threats to freedom today. Finally, we will help you practice discussing these threats on campus.

This semester, we are offering three free enterprise conferences — March 22–23, April 19–20, and May 10–11. The March boot camp convened 26 talented students from the DC area, and we are currently accepting applicants to the May camp. You only need to participate in one; however, in an effort to keep the groups small enough to encourage open discussion, we would like to know your availability for each of the remaining camps in the form below. The agenda from the April camp is below, and speakers are currently being lined up for the May camp, which will follow a similar outline. Previous speakers include Stan Veuger, Sita Slavov, Michael Strain, and Timothy Carney.

Participants will also receive a variety of AEI books and resources, including Arthur Brooks’s latest book “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise” (Basic Books, 2012), Charles Murray’s recent work "Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010" (Crown Forum, 2012), and Nicholas Eberstadt’s recent book “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic” (Templeton Press, 2012). A selection from our student-focused monograph series will also be provided.


5:30 PM

6:00–7:30 PM
Welcome & Dinner
Lori Sanders

Keynote Video:
Arthur Brooks
During dinner, participants will watch a video of Brooks’s speech, “The Road to Freedom: how to make the moral case for free enterprise.” Brooks will challenge students to fight for people, not policies, and to find solutions that help everyone, especially the most vulnerable. 

7:30–8:30 PM


8:30–9:00 AM
Optional Continental Breakfast

9:00–10:15 AM
Session 1: Social Security: History and Current Issues
Sita Slavov
This session will focus on the Social Security system and its role in the U.S. economy, examining the program's creation, its subsequent expansion, and the current debate over reform.

10:30–11:45 AM
Session 2: Budgetary realities and the future of free enterprise
Alan Viard
Alan Viard will discuss the growth of entitlement spending and the long-run fiscal imbalance confronting the United States. He will discuss the implications of these budgetary realities for future tax and spending policy and the government’s role in the economy.

12:00–1:00 PM
Lunch: Careers in free enterprise
Greg Lane, Daniel Hanson, Jesse Blumenthal    
At this lunch session, young AEI staffers will present an overview of their jobs and their career paths thus far and answer any questions the students may have regarding success in Washington. 

1:15–2:30 PM
Session 3: The biggest threat to free enterprise – cronyism
Timothy P. Carney
This discussion will address the current state of free enterprise and the threats to its future, particularly the influence of crony corporations on policy.

2:45–4:00 PM
Session 4: Going from here
John Cusey
John Cusey, AEI’s  government relations director, will discuss how he anticipates Congress moving over the next year. What will the big issues be? What messaging strategies will emerge? At the end of this session, students will practice an “elevator pitch” defending their favorite issue in front of the group. 

4:15–5:30 PM
Closing Session: From DC to the dorm room
Jo Jensen
How can students bring this knowledge to campus? Jo Jensen, marketing director for FreeThink Media will walk students through an example of campus change from her experiences with Students for Saving Social Security. Students will then discuss popular issues on their campuses and practice messaging strategies to improve their effectiveness.

5:30–6:30 PM
Dinner and Discussion
The conference will close with an informal dinner to allow time to discuss the day’s sessions and allow for more networking.

Apply now to ensure a spot in one of these informative and exciting conferences. With a limited number of spaces available at each conference, acceptance will be determined based on answers to the questions below and date of RSVP. Once again, please let us know which conference you are able to attend (you may apply to more than one). Admittance will be determined on a rolling basis, so please apply today!


Please email [email protected] with any questions. 


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